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How many films will die in the post-VHS mediascape?

by Anthony Kaufman
February 26, 2009 8:20 AM
3 Comments
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That's the key question for this story I wrote for Moving Image Source: "The Vanishing: The demise of VHS, and the movies disappearing along with it."

The number of classic movies and auteur films available only in the quickly dying format of VHS is too numerous to mention, but here's a sampling from my research:
"Greed" (Erich von Stroheim), "Underworld U.S.A." (Sam Fuller), "State of Siege" (Costas Gavras), "Providence" (Alain Resnais), "Story of the Last Chrysanthemums" (Kenji Mizoguchi), "I Only Want You to Love Me" (Rainer Fassbinder), "Where Is the Friend's House?" (Abbas Kiarostami), "Antonio Das Mortes" (Glauber Rocha), "Cruel Story of Youth" (Nagisa Oshima), "Marianne and Julianne" (Margarethe Von Trotta), "The Mortal Storm" (Frank Borzage), "The Mother and the Whore" (Jean Eustache).

In the past, if these films never made it to DVD, it simply would be a disappointment. But now it's a tragedy. With videostores shutting down right and left, many removing their VHS stock and VHS players themselves relics of a bygone era, replaced by a shiny, new all-digital future, many of these films will be left behind. As critic Dave Kehr explained to me in the piece: The studios "don’t have any idea what they've got in their library. They were releasing a number of films on VHS that you can’t get in any form today." In the switch from VHS to DVD, he explains, "we lost a tremendous amount of stuff, because they had to remaster them and no one wanted to spend the money."

And if the topic interests you, be sure to check out Mike Atkinson's (more optimistic) companion piece, "Ashes of Time", which suggests downloadable DVD-R bootlegs as our last best option.

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3 Comments

  • Amy | May 28, 2009 5:51 AMReply

    I agree that all the classic movies being lost is a tradgedy. Im into movies all the way back to the 30's (Jeanette McDonald/Nelson Eddy, etc. ) Finding them on DVD is almost impossible, and some never did make it. I find it sad due to the fact that is one connection I had with my grandmother that is now hard to keep. Is there any places that try to keep old movies going?

  • Ricardo | March 20, 2009 6:59 AMReply

    Karagarga is the answer!

  • AlGus | February 27, 2009 1:46 AMReply

    While classic movies are still a concern, more importance should be given to family home movies trapped in the relic of VHS. After stumbling across the several shoeboxes of family videos I sought out a way to convert VHS tapes to DVD. In my research I learned that video tape degrades quickly and that copying tapes to dvd not only made your videos easier to watch but also preserved the quality of the image. There are a lot of video transfer services out there, check out your local phone book or do a search online. I liked StashSpace.Com the best as they allow you to edit your video online after it is transferred to digital. It costs $7 for the transfer.

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